How to Build a Casual Minimalist Wardrobe (That’s Good for the Planet)

gray t-shirt on hanger depicting a casual minimalist wardrobeDone right, a casual minimalist wardrobe can actually look pretty stylish.

It’s true, you can dress informally without looking sloppy.

Buying clothes or shoes that are suitable for everyday wear is often more of a challenge than finding an outfit for a formal occasion.

This is especially true when buying things  you plan on keeping for the duration, rather than just the season.

With the fast fashion outlets introducing new styles on a weekly basis, it’s little wonder most people are overwhelmed by their too-full closets. The more we have to choose from, the unhappier we become. 

Building a minimalist or capsule wardrobe circumvents decision fatigue. As much as our consumer culture would have us believe otherwise, the fewer choices we have, the happier we are.

Maybe you’ve already realised that less is more and want to carry this realisation over to your wardrobe as well, but don’t know how to go about decluttering your clothes.

Perhaps you’re just tired of staring into your bulging closet every morning and feeling so overwhelmed you just shut the door and pull your favourite outfit from the ironing hamper.

Who cares if your clothes are wrinkled, so long as you’re comfortable, right?

However you got to thinking about a more minimalist wardrobe, the important thing is that you did. Life is about to get a lot easier.

Before we get to the building part, let’s take a look at the benefits of a owning less clothes. There are many.

Probably more than you imagine.

The Benefits of a Casual Minimalist Wardrobe

Making the decision to significantly downsize your wardrobe can feel daunting. Especially if you have a lot of clothes.

You know that something has to change. Taking an hour (or more) to decide what to wear every morning is driving you crazy. Not to mention,  making you perpetually late.

It’s easier to get seduced by yet another ‘sale’ than it is to make the effort to reduce the amount of things you have in your closet.

Buying something new may seem like the answer to your “I have nothing to wear!” woes, but you only have to count the number of clothing items with the tags still on them to know it’s not the solution to your problem.

Along with the physical act of sorting and decluttering, there’s the mental aspect of letting go. You’re also saying goodbye to shopping habits that don’t serve you.

With this in mind, having a clear idea of the benefits you can expect from downsizing your wardrobe is key. It’ll help you keep going when you don’t really feel like carrying on.

  1. It’s easier to decide what to wear in the morning.
  2. Packing for vacation is super simple (plus, you have less luggage).
  3. Your wardrobe isn’t so cluttered and messy.
  4. Overflowing laundry baskets are a thing of the past.
  5. No more feeling guilty about clothes you never wear.
  6. You free up mental bandwidth for more important things.
  7. You feel good in all your clothes.
  8. Everything you own is your favourite.
  9. Buyer’s remorse is a thing of the past.
  10. You no longer care what other people think.
  11. Getting dressed doesn’t stress you out anymore.
  12. You save money in the long run.
  13. Life is generally easier.
  14. You’re happier.

Your Minimalist Wardrobe Checklist (Get Started)

declutter your clothes to create a casual minimalist wardrobe

Having a minimalist wardrobe checklist makes it easier to get started. And the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll look and feel like a million bucks. It’s a simple and straightforward process, but don’t rush it.

Approach each step with care and consideration. Be mindful. Think about what you’d like to achieve and do your best to make that vision a reality.

You want to do a good job. I’m not saying you need to get caught up in your image, but it’s important to be well presented. After all, when you look good, you feel good.

You know how ‘iffy’ you feel when you go out in a pair of pants that don’t fit you properly. Maybe they’re too tight or too baggy or they’re not a great cut. Whatever it is, you don’t feel good when you wear them.

Whether or not other people pick up on that is beside the point. You don’t feel good and that’s all that matters. Wouldn’t you much rather avoid that scenario completely?

1. Clean Out Your Closet

Step one is to clean out your closet. Obvious, I know, but it has to be done before you can get to the fun part of building a casual minimalist wardrobe you’ll love.

The Spruce has put together an in depth guide on how to declutter the clothes in your closet. They suggest starting with these 7 key closet decluttering questions:

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Do I wear it?
  3. Does it project the image I want?
  4. Does it itch or scratch?
  5. Does it pinch my toes? Are the heels too high to walk in?
  6. Is it moldy? Smelly? Stained?
  7. Does it fit?

Asking these questions as you go through the items in your wardrobe will make letting go so much easier. They’re super practical and force you to leave the emotion out of the equation.

If a blouse is moldy, smelly or stained for example, it must go. It doesn’t matter how much you love it. Channel your inner-Marie Kondo and thank it for the time you had together and then say goodbye.

If you’ve been completely honest, you should only be left with the clothes you truly love and are happy to wear on a regular basis. 

Next, it’s time to figure out what to do with the items you aren’t keeping. The key is to declutter sustainably. You need to make sure your old clothes don’t end up on the landfill.

Sustainable fashion is not only about supporting slow fashion labels but also about giving new life to existing items and keeping clothing out of landfills. —The Good Trade

2. Consider Your Daily Needs (and Not So Daily Needs)

If your work allows for more informal attire it definitely takes the pressure off. You can wear your Levis to the office and to the movies. Sweet.

But what about business meetings, special events or first dates? Levis look good, but sometimes you may want to wear something a little fancier?

You won’t wear these items everyday, but it’s nice to have them on hand for when you get invited to a wedding or some other occasion where your more casual clothes don’t quite do the trick.

Take some time to think about the kind of clothes you regularly. What are your likes and dislikes? What do you feel most comfortable in? Are there certain things your wear a lot?

Next, consider what you like to wear to formal functions or events. How often do you attend these sorts of things? Would you be happy to wear the same outfit everytime or would you prefer having some options?

When making your choices, it’s helpful to think in terms of pieces and outfits. Making sure you can mix and match your clothes for different occasions means you won’t get bored with your clothes.

3. How Often Are You Able to Do Laundry?

You might love the idea of only owning two pairs of pants and three shirts, but if you can only do your laundry once a week that’s not going to work. 

Think about how often you’re able to wash your clothes and kit out your wardrobe accordingly. Our ex-roommate did laundry every Saturday, so he bought five shirts for work and a couple of t-shirts for the weekend.

He also had three or four pairs of black jeans that he rotated. This amount appeared to work well for him, whether it would suit your needs is something only you can know.

It’s important to note here that you probably won’t get it right the first time. Creating the perfect minimalist capsule wardrobe is a process. But eventually you’ll reach a point where you have exactly what you need.

4. Choose a Colour Palette (Eclectic Counts)

For a lot of people, choosing a colour theme for their wardrobe is appealing. They like the idea of knowing that everything matches with everything else.

There’s no concern about certain items not working well with other items. If you’re fine with always wearing a range of, say, gray or beige or cornflower blue, go for it.

Sporty and I enjoy mixing it up. Our pants are mostly neutral, which makes things easier. However, our tops (t-shirts, blouses, sweaters, etc.) are all different colours.

We both tried going the neutral route, but we ended up feeling dull and boring. That’s not to say it’s the same for everyone, mind you. It was just our experience.

Building a casual minimalist wardrobe is a commitment. There’s no point spending money on expensive items if you’re going to hate them in a month’s time. Make sure you’re happy with your choices before handing over your credit card.

5. Decide What to Buy (and Where to Buy It)

casual minimalist wardrobe - woman shopping for secondhand clothes

What should be in a minimalist wardrobe? That’s a great question. Rather than offer you specifics, I’ll provide some guidelines that you can adapt to suit your needs and preferences.

You need to identify your sweet spot. You don’t want too many clothes, but neither do you want too few. Using the Goldilocks Principle will help you arrive at a number that’s ‘just right’ for you.

After taking into account your daily (and occasional) needs as well as how often you’re able to do laundry, you’ll have a good idea of not only what you need, but how many of each as well.

Of equal importance is figuring out where to buy the items you’ll be adding to your wardrobe. Whether you’re looking for jeans, shirts or a pair of cute minimalist shoes, step one is finding a sustainable source.

Whatever you do, steer clear of fast fashion outlets. When you search for that elusive sexy dress for the special occasions section of your wardrobe, try looking in pre-loved designer fashion boutiques.

The environmental impact of the textile and clothing industry is enormous. Buying secondhand is a great way to offset that. Even if it is just by a little.

Another option is to find a local designer or tailor and work with them to create something timeless. Supporting local business is good for the economy and the environment.

Finally, wherever you decide to spend your money, make sure you choose a brand that has a triple bottom line. In other words, a brand that cares about more than just fnancial profit.

The Problem With Consumerism

Reducing consumption has to be integrated into our solutions toolkit if we’re to quickly tackle the climate crisis before 2050. The governments and corporations who created the mess need to fix it.

However, as individuals we must do our part too. We can’t keep consuming ad nauseam. At some point we need to stop and take stock. Do we really need that [whatever] or are we buying for buying’s sake?

As the School of Life points out in The History of Consumerism, humans aren’t planning to eschew consumerism anytime soon. But we can at least slow down a little.

Changing our shopping habits, reducing the amount of things we own and adopting a ‘less is more’ lifestyle will at least put us in the right direction. As will building a casual minimalist wardrobe.

Doesn’t it feel good to know you’re on the right path?

Photo by Cristofer Jeschke and Sarah Brown on Unsplash and Matthew Henry on Burst Shopify